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Group B strep infection, which is a growth of streptococcal bacteria in the vagina, is usually treated with intravenous antibiotics when the mother is in labor in the hospital. There are several antibiotics approved for this purpose. Group B strep is treated in order to decrease the risk of infections in the newborn, which can include infection of the blood, pneumonia and meningitis. Testing for group B strep is usually done by collecting a specimen with a sterile swab from the mother's vagina and rectum between weeks 35 and 37 of pregnancy. About 25% of pregnant women carry the bacteria.
If there is a group B streptococcus (GBS) concern during pregnancy, to minimize the risk of GBS, your doctor will probably recommend that you receive antibiotics during labor. Antibiotics given at this time can help get rid of some of the bacteria that can harm the baby. You'll receive the antibiotics through an IV (intravenous line), a small and flexible tube placed through your skin into a vein.
If you are planning a Caesarean (C-section) delivery, your labor hasn't begun, and the amniotic sac hasn't broken (your water hasn't broken), you may not need to take antibiotics. That's because in these circumstances, there is less chance that GBS will pass to your baby during a planned C-section.
To help protect their babies from group B strep infection, pregnant women who test positive for group B strep in the current pregnancy should receive antibiotics (medicine) through the intravenous vein (IV) during labor. Also, pregnant women who have group B strep detected in their urine during the current pregnancy or who had a previous infant with group B strep disease should receive antibiotics during labor; they do not need to be screened at 35-37 weeks because they should receive antibiotics regardless of the screening result. Pregnant women who do not know whether or not they are group B strep positive when labor starts should be given antibiotics if they have:
- labor starting at less than 37 weeks (preterm labor);
- prolonged membrane rupture (water breaking 18 or more hours before delivery); or
- fever during labor.
Penicillin is very safe and effective at preventing group B strep disease in newborns. There can be side effects from penicillin for the woman, including a mild reaction to penicillin (about a 10% chance). There is a rare chance (about 1 in 10,000) of the mother having a severe allergic reaction that requires emergency treatment.
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